How to Master the “ART” of Retirement

Retirement beach writing

Retirement is not an end. It’s an experiment in Activity, Relationships, and Time (ART). And like all experiments, the ART of retirement involves some trial and error. It’s not easy leaving behind the routine, the people, and the places that were such a big part of your life while you were working.

But a successful retirement is “work” too, especially at the beginning. Trying to settle on a new routine that will keep you happy and connected isn’t as easy as it sounds. You will make mistakes. You will feel frustrated. You might even feel a little bit lost.

One easy way to smooth this challenging transition is to plan ahead. If your retirement is just around the corner, start thinking about what your retirement ART is going to look like, and how you plan on practicing it.

Activity

Jack just retired. He has no idea how to spend his time anymore. So, he putters around the house, fixing stuff that isn’t broken, rearranging things that don’t need to be rearranged, watching a lot of TV … and driving his wife, Jill, crazy.

We chuckle when we see a scenario like this play out in a movie or TV show. But Retired Hubby or Wifey Syndrome is a very real problem. Many senior couples have spent eight hours or more apart from each other every single day for decades. Then, suddenly, they’re together all the time.

Often, this is the moment when spouses realize they each have very different ideas about what retirement is going to be like. One spouse might have visions of a hammock in the backyard. The other might have plans to see the world. Somewhere in between those expectations are the activities that are going to make retirement worthwhile for both people.

The things you do in retirement should be meaningful, stimulating, and energizing. Your passions should be your guide to a new routine – both with your spouse, and apart from him or her. Take professional lessons to turn a hobby like golf or painting into a real skill. Volunteer at a charity or nonprofit that’s close to your heart. You and your spouse can indulge your inner foodies with weekly date nights to try out all the new hot spots in town.

Relationships

Your spouse isn’t the only person you’ll be seeing more often in retirement. Your relationships with the rest of your friends and family are also going to change now that you’re no longer working. This too can be difficult, as many of the people you spent 40 hours every week with at your job recede from your day-to-day routine.

But this can also be a wonderful opportunity to connect with the people who matter the most to you. Once you and your spouse make it through the initial adjustment period, you’ll be able to spend time doing the things that brought you together in the first place. Planning trips and extended vacations around your children and grandchildren will create meaningful experiences that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life.

Your social calendar also gets a whole lot bigger. Fill it up! Organize your friends for a weekly round of golf. Plan date nights with other retired couples. If there are people you lost touch with due to the grind of working and raising a family, reconnect.

Time

Time without the structure that work provides can be challenging for retirees. On the one hand, without meetings and project deadlines to worry about, time can seem so limitless that it’s overwhelming. On the other hand, many seniors still react to retirement like it’s an end to dread. They feel like their time is slipping away.

But these outdated notions just don’t suit today’s retirement or today’s retirees. Retirees are more active, more connected to their communities, more adventurous, more ALIVE than they’ve ever been! And they organize their time in retirement around the activities and relationships that make them feel happy and fulfilled.

Like we said at the top, retirement is an ART you have to work to perfect. You’ll make mistakes, and you’ll learn from them and adjust. You might load up your schedule with activities, only to find that having less structure allows you to explore your options a bit more. You might find the initial lack of structure maddening, and work on a new routine. You might try a part time job. You might like it. You might not.

There’s no one way to have a successful retirement. But the sooner you start working with us to refine your ART, the more beautiful your retirement picture will be.

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Financial Freedom for Older Adults

Financial Freedom wooden sign with a beach on backgroundThe word “financial” is not often followed by the word “freedom,” and yet financial freedom has never been more possible. With the advent of online money-making platforms, the constant influx of new products that yield substantial returns, and the continuous stream of budgeting ideology that floods the marketplace, we should be one of the most financially sustainable generations in history. The missing key for unlocking this possibility is very easily just an understanding that we aren’t supposed to be led by our money- we are supposed to be in charge of it.

So what can you do differently to make sure that you have the say over what happens with your money and that your future is financially secure? There is always something you can do to improve in every area of life, especially in money management.

If retirement is on the horizon, make sure you have all of your real estate ducks in a row. Do your best to have your mortgage paid off before you retire to avoid having a payment to contend with when you’re no longer working. If you have successfully decluttered as your children have grown and as your interests have changed, it may become clear that your house no longer fits your needs. If it’s time to downsize, you open up more opportunity to save: by selling your home and moving into a smaller house, you can pad your savings with extra money to help with assisted living or medical costs down the road. Or you could add some real estate to your investment portfolio. Maybe it’s time to get the vacation home you’ve been eyeing — you can always offset payments by renting it out when you aren’t using it.

Next, consider your budget. Unfortunately, only a third of the American population admits to keeping some type of budget for their income. For those keeping score at home, that means two thirds of Americans don’t layout or maintain a plan for their finances. The point is simply that if you aren’t sure where your money belongs on daily basis, it will be harder to plan for the future.

Have you ever taken a road trip to a new vacation spot without a map or a GPS? Having a plan makes all the difference in whether you successfully arrive to your destination. A budget is a plan of action, meant to navigate you through your future. You can start the easy way, by separating your finances into three categories: money for charities, money to save, and money to spend. Once you have determined the percentage of your income that belongs in those major categories, you can break it down further and be as detailed as necessary. There are several ideas behind budgeting worth considering, and you can use the one that best fits your lifestyle.

Before you know it, budgeting will become second nature and you won’t have to question where your money has gone. By the end of the year, you will likely be surprised at how much you were able to save based on your projected plan. Your budget will also help smooth out the tax filing process, because you will be fully prepared with the financial details that you are asked to include in the paperwork.

If you are over 50 years of age, you won’t have to use that hard-earned, well-saved money on hiring someone to help. The AARP organization has a program that provides a volunteer to assist you with your taxes, and for those over 60 years of age, the IRS provides a similar service through TCE volunteers. All you have to do to take advantage of either opportunity is to contact a location closest to you to set-up an appointment.

After you have used all of the applicable senior  tax deductions and benefits, you can use your substantial refund to build an emergency fund, invest in a small side business, or increase your savings account. You could make an extra payment on your home or use the money to upgrade a few things around your house. Then, sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor, delightfully knowing that you have handled your money the smart way.

A healthy handle on your bank account is just a financial blueprint away. Making savvy real estate decisions, budgeting, understanding what tax benefits are available to you, and carefully managing your tax refund are all easy stepping stones toward financial freedom. Don’t be overwhelmed by the future, but be excited about the possibilities.